writing

Monument

From The Vatersay Raiders by Ben Buxton.

Thomas Gray, Chief Clerk of the Wreck Department of the Board of Trade in London, visited Barra in 1866, and wrote a damning report about the treatment of wrecks and other matters.  He was told about the plundering of the Annie Jane’s survivors’ possessions and ‘…learnt that the burial was not at all what we would call Christian Burial but two large holes were dug and the people stowed in them Mr Beatson said “like herrings in a barrel”.  There is no mark, not even a pice of wood to show where these bodies are buried.  I should like to see a stone erected…’

Mr Beatson was the Church of Scotland Minister in Barra.  Gray’s wish to see a stone erected was fulfilled in 1880 when the present granite memorial on the dunes above the beach was put up.  There is no clue on it as to whose initiative this was, but a visitor in 1887 informs us that, “A few years ago a Robert MacFie, Esq. of Airds and Oban was cruising among the Western Islands in his yacht” and, on hearing about the disaster, resolved to commemorate it.  He commissioned the memorial from a firm of masons who were working on Barra at the time, Cruickshank of Glasgow.